Letter to the Editor: The city’s decision-makers

Published 11:59 am Friday, October 29, 2021

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To the Editor:

The action the Washington City Council took recently regarding private development on the Pamlico River impacted not just two parcels of land, but included ordinance changes that impact areas citywide. As noted in the Washington Daily News, the city council voted to “amend the city code in order to facilitate the construction of a dry stack boat storage facility and commercial marina.”

Transparency matters — zoning processes and city code/ordinance changes should be made in an inclusive and transparent manner, especially for changes that impact the public trust. The Pamlico River is one of the city’s greatest economic assets. The breakneck speed of decision-making by the city needs to be called out, and the process needs to change moving forward. Before taking action that may impact future development, which could also negatively impact the river, members of the council would have better served all their constituents by holding informal meetings to make sure residents and business owners understood what was at stake and had a say in the changes. If this had been done, the city council would have known one of the changes made to the ordinance is no longer consistent with state rules made to protect rivers and streams — rules put in place to protect the very asset the city holds dear.

The ordinance change follows a city council decision not to pursue extension of the existing waterfront boardwalk through the next phase of the Moss Landing development. This was an opportunity to provide equitable access to all residents and visitors, to ensure everyone benefits from a healthy Pamlico River. Opportunities like this are rare, as is public access to the river. We hope when future opportunities arise, equity is the primary motivator for a council that represents all Washingtonians.

Landowners, neighbors, business and industry, as well as any resident concerned about the future character of Washington, are all affected by the council’s policy choices; public discussion and deliberation should be an intrinsic part of the decision-making process. Zoning and ordinance changes should be decided by the community that has to live with them — not by developers.

Jill Howell

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper, Sound Rivers